The Rave and the Wage

Razz writer, Ryan Thompson, goes against the grain with this short story…

The policeman stopped the car, and administered a breathalyser. It was clear; so he sent a Ford Fiesta crammed with five early twentysomething males on their way. Their bleary red eyes couldn’t believe it. Technology still wouldn’t detect their illicit habit – even in 1992!

It was raining as we talked, and his mask fell. The drops slid down the glass in bored droves. We were at a table in the canteen pushing chilli around the plate before working on our presentations again. The giddy thrill for me of attaining this work placement must have seemed the polar opposite of fun for him in his halcyon era. Yet here we were.

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Photo Credit: Beth Evans

For today’s globalised youth, the simple charms of the rave culture may seem apocryphal. Indeed, it did for me, as my colleague at work told me (a selection of) his stories. He never referred to his youth as “misspent”, but almost wistfully conceded the lustre had been extinguished, and the music had died. It could never happen again.

I cannot say, amongst the spreadsheets we pored over, that this seemed the likeliest of stories. Interesting ones often aren’t. So often the past is tempered with quaintness, and today as a grand triumph over meekness. Yet, with no “social media” to speak of, thousands of people would descend on wide, open lands, and placate some great rhythm within their souls. Where today we reconnect with this era by buying a Nirvana t-shirt, they said “come as you are”.

They would distribute flyers, and that would be it. The night would arrive, and word would have spread. The weird paradoxes of rigging monolithic sound systems whilst mingling with sheep the next field over gave an insouciant air to the tales. It may seem that by comparison, life today is lived almost as a series of photo-shoots. I’m led to believe people were just people back then; but I wonder what the future’s gaze will hold for today.

It was, however, a story of reality. Each day, amusingly, he would report to work at a DIY store, whatever his condition. For all the altruism of the night, there were the families to support as the new millennium awoke. It is often said of the young that “anything is possible”, but I did not gather this was the impression they had. The raves were their response.

It made me question which face the mask really was. So often “corporate” is a word used disparagingly, but this emblematic moment of my colleague’s life was over in a few years. Much of consumerism and fashion is a play on the gnawing doubt of identity. This was the most conspicuous absence in the story. It just seemed to fit that life’s corridor had many doors.

This all evoked a famous criticism Robert Kennedy made of judging life by economic measures, in 1968. He said it would include “the locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them”, and the loss of natural wonder in the “chaotic squall”, before adding, “everything…except that which makes life worthwhile”. And so it is, that the serene and the fast should run together.

We went back to the office, a little later than usual, and shook our umbrellas. The girl on reception asked where we’d been. Somewhere else entirely, was the answer.

Written for Razz by Ryan Thompson.

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